The last two centuries have seen a transformation in cities from
being relatively contained, to widespread urban sprawl.
This has been a worldwide phenomenon. The strengthening of international capital has led to the concentration of economic power in a number of global centres of finance and highly specialized services, such as London, Frankfurt and New York (Sassen, 2001; Smith, 2002).
The decisions The decisions taken in these global cities, as seats of government, international markets and the locations of many corporate headquarters, are often of greater significance than decisions taken by governments at a regional or even national level.
At the same time some older industrial cities such as Detroit and Manchester have seen their influence
dwindle as manufacturing becomes less important (Sassen, 2001; Smith, 2002). As production has moved location or closed down, there has been a trend of population migration away from the cities to the suburbs, smaller towns and semi-rural areas (Turok, 1999).
The combined actions of economic power and planning have undermined the importance of distinct spaces and landmarks that originally contributed to the establishment of the character and spaces of cities.
Many urban patterns and traditional connections have been weakened or lost, slashed by mega redesigns that ignored centuries of evolution.
Cities have been scarred by major road networks, which occupy large areas of land, fragment and blight neighbourhoods destroying local social interchange and disconnecting travellers from their surroundings (Appleyard, 1981). Sprawl, car traffic, zoning and major redevelopments have destroyed the fabric of streets, buildings and spaces, often replacing diversity with large singleuse structures which can have a hostile or imposing presence.
In the process of modernization, urban communities have lost the richness of patterns and symbols that made each city distinct.
Lozano’s concept of cities (1990), as the setting of culture and civilized behaviour, is becoming increasingly fragile.Suburban sprawl has meant that the edge of cities is often blurred with miles of semi-suburban semi-rural hinterland of shopping malls, office parks and housing developments that constitutes neither city nor countryside. In many cases huge conurbations have obliterated any notion of the city (Bookchin, 1995). People often live miles from where they work, shop or go for leisure activities.
The traditional connection of the exchange of goods between cities and their neighbouring countryside is
also lost with resources being shipped from all parts of the world to service the undifferentiated urbanized communities.